War and Peace Notes – Tolstoy on Fear During War

War and Peace on the Brain Banner

Written for Slavic 90A: Introduction to Russian Civilization – Spring 2013. Read more of my previous notes on “War and Peace” here.

Tolstoy does an excellent job in portraying the feelings of confusion and fear during the midst of war. In Book One Part One, the reactions to the war are mixed. As a young soul who has returned to his homeland, Pierre is unintimidated by the war. He does not see a reason to fight a war against Napoleon. Because Prince Andrei is bored and undecided on what else to do with his life, like most men, he commits to fighting the war (30). On the other hand, Princess Lisa states how she doesn’t understand the need for war, by associating it as only a man’s thing, as no woman “would want anything of the kind” (27). Although she tries to maintain a calm demeanor in her comments, on the subsequent page, Princess Lisa displays her feelings of angst and fear regarding the war. As a woman, she cannot engage in the war as a combatant and admits that she greatly fears for her husband Prince Andrei’s future.

In Book One Part Two, the later chapters 9 and from 14 to 20 particularly focus on the logistics and soldiers involved in war, seeing as the scenes take place on the combat grounds. In chapter 19, a young Russian officer from Prince Andrei’s brigade tries to rally his comrades when he states, “Afraid or not, it makes no difference, you can’t escape it anyhow” (189). This is a perfect line describing the futility of fear, yet the human inability to avoid it. In fact the feeling is so powerful, it can even cripple the best soldiers and quickest minds. When Rostov falls from his dead horse and finds himself alone in the middle of a battlefield, Tolstoy describes fear as “the one single emotion” that “possessed [Rostov’s] whole being” (201). He flings his pistol at his enemy and flees, but fortunately is saved by some Russian snipers.

From the reading, we see the varied reactions of some Russian elites on the French-Russian conflict. Not everyone was in favor of fighting Napoleon, but more or less, all were affected by the ongoing battles, which would lead to the grand French invasion of 1812–a rather important year for the Russians.

Works Cited: Tolstoy, Leo, Louise Maude, Aylmer Maude, and Amy Mandelker. War and Peace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

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